Data management is more than a numbers game – to be discussed at Agri-TechE event

A hot fog potato storage app that has helped the industry share knowledge to overcome withdrawal of key chemicals, a ‘digital twin' that is supporting top-fruit producers become carbon neutral, and remote sensing to drive improved decision-making - these are all among on-farm developments to be discussed at the Agri-TechE event ‘Data Management - More Than A Numbers Game' on Tuesday 13th April.

"Virtual models of the real world are helping farmers and growers to understand the complex interconnections between crop, environment and market," explains Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE. "Increasingly we are seeing that this brings closer collaboration between the different players - the sum is truly greater than the parts."
A good example of this came last year when CIPC, a chemical used as sprout suppressant for stored potatoes, was withdrawn suddenly. Agri-tech company LiveTrace developed a new app for its Grower Management System Potato to support the new practice of ‘fogging'.
Co-founder and CEO Jon Kemp explains: "Following the ban of CIPC new and untried treatments such as Biox-M (spearmint oil) and DMN were introduced. Managers are now required to frequently inspect and record, then apply the new sprout suppressant quickly using a hot fog. This requires new skills, better timings and understanding of how and when to apply. Everyone looking after stored potatoes has had to learn fast."
To support the industry, LiveTrace developed a new app: ‘LiveTrace Fogging'. This is an online store diary which records crop temperature, fan hours and crop condition (sprouting, breakdown etc) with photographs and a comments section.
Jon firmly believes knowledge-sharing is the future: "We made the decision to share our new Fogging app with companies in the processing supply, so all the major players have access to the database. Live reporting on the dashboard is graphed by variety which is very useful to gain confidence to change the fogging process to make improvements to the application techniques."
Antony Yousefian, Ag-Tech Director for top-fruit producers Bardsley England, agrees he sees the role of data management not to reduce labour but to redeploy it.
He says: "Growers are wanting to be data driven; they're collecting data and then they're using their knowledge to try to interpret that. But the complexity is too great for one person. The next stage of the agri-tech journey is to see farmers turning from having no technology team, to having half the business employed in technology."
Antony's background is in data analysis in the finance sector and he sees a major opportunity for the improved use of data in agriculture.
"Our approach at Bardsley England is different. We have created an in-house ag-tech team, BX Tech, where we pull together all these data sources, to unlock this ‘business intelligence', and then at the same time we're building out our own software. We see BX producing lots of tools which could then be rolled out to a wider grower base."
Bardsley England currently sits as one of the largest top-fruit producers in the UK - alongside its fruit growing is a state-of-the-art fruit packing facility, supporting a vertically integrated supply chain solution where fruit is grown, stored, graded, packed, and distributed to supermarkets throughout the year.
The data collected on-farm - sprays, pruning events, satellite imagery, weather data, soil data - are used as ground truthing points, to create a computer model called a ‘digital twin'; this provides a virtual farm which can be used to provide predictions and enable data-led decisions.
Antony explains that the digital twin can be used to answer questions like: ‘there is a temperature difference in that corner of the orchard; is that a driver in the difference in yield across the orchard? Or is there a different variable driving the variation in yield?'
"The digital twin is usable right now," says Antony. "It's already generating value at Bardsley England by producing daily expenditure reports for each orchard."
Matthew Guinness is Head of Sustainability at Hummingbird Technologies, leaders in imagery analytics for agriculture, using deep learning and AI to create models using data from satellites and high-resolution drone data. The field and farm data from a particular farm is then analysed using these models to support decision making at key points in the growing season.
Matthew says that remote sensing is enabling farmers to benchmark against best practice: "Remote sensing offers the power and scale to monitor and benchmark key metrics. Our main focus areas this coming year include predictive analytics and sustainability, with some exciting developments on the horizon. This includes our collaboration with LEAF and the Sustainable Food Trust."
These developments and more will be discussed at the event, where Antony Yousefian, Matthew Guinness and Jon Kemp will be joined by Professor Neil Hall, Director of the Earlham Institute, and Derek Thompson, CEO of Consus Fresh, as speakers at the Agri-TechE event: ‘Data Management - More Than A Numbers Game' on Tuesday 13th April at 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm.
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